PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has submitted to the attorney-general (AG) its proposals to revamp the Legal Profession Act (LPA) towards self-regulating the legal profession in the peninsula.
Bar president George Varughese said it was now up to AG Tommy Thomas to consider the suggestions before the government tables the amendments in Parliament.
“We totally overhauled the LPA, but the AG will go through the draft before the next course of action,” he told FMT.
Varughese voiced hope that the LPA could be tabled in Parliament this year so that the new plans can be implemented as soon as possible.
“The Bar, like other professional bodies, will be more independent to self-regulate the legal profession in the peninsula as required under the LPA,” he added.
Varughese said under the proposal, 17 members of the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board would be nominated by the Bar Council.
“Currently, the chief judge of Malaya appoints the members,” he said.
He also said the Bar would like to play a prominent role in the running of the Legal Profession Qualifying Board, including by setting a minimum standard for those intending to practise law.
Varughese said the Bar had proposed that it take control of running the current Certificate of Legal Practice course or the proposed Common Bar Examination to ensure only qualified persons entered the profession.
It had also proposed that it be given the authority to recognise the law degree programmes of local and foreign universities.
The Legal Profession Qualifying Board is chaired by the AG.
Members include two judges nominated by the chief justice, the Bar president, and a full-time member of the academic staff of a law faculty nominated by the higher education minister.
A committee was set up last July to comb through the provisions in the LPA that need to be updated in keeping with the changing times.
Varughese said a nationwide roadshow to meet members, explain the amendments and get their feedback was carried out over the last two months.
“The committee then fine-tuned the proposals. The Bar Council approved the draft before it was sent to the AG,” he said.
At the International Malaysia Law Conference in August, Thomas said the Advocates and Solicitors Ordinance 1947 and the original LPA which governed the legal profession had been drafted by lawyers with little input from the state.
However, he said, the LPA had been amended on numerous occasions to punish the Bar for the public positions it had taken.
He said the previous governments had seen fit for the office of the AG to be involved, and made in-roads into the Bar’s autonomy and independence.
Thomas also said he would advise the new Pakatan Harapan government that the state’s involvement in the governance of the legal profession was harmful to the independence of the Bar.